Thursday, February 19, 2009

Car-less in Kaua’i

By guest contributor Pamela Salmon

“I like your Bike Friday,” chimed a middle-aged woman with vibrant eyes, a broad smile and a pink Terry Bicycles tank top. I thought with excitement, she is the first person in six days of being on Kauai who noticed my unique mode of transportation. I was riding a new-fangled folding bicycle that I had purchased for two reasons: I wanted to see if a tourist could navigate Kaua’i without having a car, and on my vacation, I wanted to maintain my training for endurance rides that I do in my home state of New Mexico.

My husband Rick says my bike looks like a cross between a BMX and a road bike. It is truly an engineering marvel, foldable and easily packed into a 30-inch, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase.

“My daughter has traveled all over the world with a Bike Friday,” added Cookie Kiacz from Norman, OK, when I asked how she recognized my bike. Then as fate would have it in chance encounters, Cookie became the source of information I had been seeking. She told me for years she had been vacationing on the eastern shore of Kauai for weeks at a time without a car, motivated by the desire to protect her environment and to experience the local flavor.

Her adventure in bidding the automobile goodbye began 12 years ago when she and her late husband, Dan, started coming to Kauai, the northern most island in the Hawaiian chain. “We were going to be here for six weeks. We rented a car at the airport and drove to Wal Mart in Lihue where we bought groceries and other necessities. We also bought two bicycles.”

The couple loved being close to nature and on their bikes had one adventure after another. That first year, after emptying their Wal Mart essentials, they packed their bikes back in their rental car, drove back to the airport, returned the car and bicycled the eight miles north on the highway’s wide shoulder to Kapa’a where they were staying.

They were enchanted. “We saw things on the bikes that we would never see in a car,” she said. “We got a real sense of the energy and spirit of the island.” Throughout the years, Cookie and Dan rode bicycles from Kapa’a to Kilauea and past Princeville to Hanalei. They rode to farmers’ markets and carried their vegetables and papayas home in backpacks and draped their bouquets of birds of paradise, red ginger and heliconias across their handlebars. If their loads were too heavy or they wanted to venture further, they and their bikes caught a ride on The Kaua’i Bus.

Cookie notes that currently few locals walk or ride bikes for transportation, but they do take the bus. “The bus system is wonderful,” she added, explaining that you can get almost anywhere you want to go and you meet island residents at the same time. She also noted that the new Kapa’a bike trail, which follows an old sugar cane road, is making the island more friendly to cyclists.

Because the couple had no storage in Kaua’i, when they left that first year they gave their bikes to local friends. Each year thereafter, they rented bicycles, spending about a third of what they would on a car. They also got plenty of exercise and prided themselves on being good stewards of the land.

Cookie, 63, continued the practice following the death of her husband four years ago. She takes a cab from the airport to Kapa’a, rents a bike, buys groceries at the local markets, and takes her bike out every day for a new adventure. “I saw three people on the new bike trail along the Kapa’a shore the other day and they all had Bike Fridays,” Cookie said, making me feel I was in good company.

I shared her excitement. My husband and I rode that bike path in late January along the cliffs, looking for whales and hypnotized by the waves on Donkey Beach. We took a side trip from the beach to a roadside stand selling huli huli chicken on the highway. As our meal swung rhythmically in a flimsy bag hooked over my handlebar, we made our way back to the cliff to eat our locally-cooked chicken, rice and corn overlooking the Pacific and felt as if we were the only people on the planet.

Because Rick and I own a condominium near the south shore of Kaua’i, we visit once or twice a year. While I was unsuccessful in doing without a car this time, I will continue my quest. I had made a logistical start. I bicycled six days out of the nine that we were there, mostly near the Po’ipu and Kalaheo areas, exploring roads and meeting local cyclists riding upscale road bikes who wondered what in the world kind of bicycle was I riding.

I look forward to taking Cookie’s advice and making the bus part of my overall plan. I will be able to go anywhere. I can go to the nearby farmers’ market. I can get a back pack to carry groceries. I can be a role model and demonstrate that bicycling is a viable mode of transportation on the island. And if we want pizza? We can bike to the pizza restaurant and eat there or have it delivered.

1 comment:

Galfromdownunder said...

Great to see some foldable Aloha! More Bike Friday in Hawaii here: - perhaps we could add this to the page...
Lynette @ Bike Friday